Selecting a Water Timer for Your Irrigation System

Timers and controllers come in many different configurations. It can be overwhelming and confusing when trying to choose one. A great place to start is to understand some basic terminology.  

  • The timer is often used to refer to the ‘hose-end’ models. These units will attach to a standard hose faucet, also known as a ¾ inch hose thread connection.  
  • Hose-end - This term refers to the threads of a standard outdoor faucet, which is an ¾ inch male hose thread. All ‘timers’ are designed to attach to the standard faucet, hence the term hose-end.
  • Controller - This more often refers to units that connect to a valve manifold system. These systems can be either AC or DC and it is important to match valves and controllers to the same current.
  • AC aka ‘Alternating Current’. Alternating current describes the flow of charge that changes direction periodically. As a result, the voltage level also reverses along with the current. AC is used to deliver power to houses, office buildings, etc.
  • DC aka ‘Direct Current’. Direct current is a bit easier to understand than alternating current. Rather than oscillating back and forth, DC provides a constant voltage or current.
  • WiFi - This feature allows you to connect to your controller from anywhere via the internet.
  • Bluetooth - This feature allows you to connect to your timer/controller via your smartphone or iPad but usually only within about a certain foot range in direct line of sight.
  • Ambient Light - Does require direct sunlight to capture enough light to operate.
  • Start times per day - This is the number of times per day you will be able to water.
  • Zones - This represents the number of independent watering zones you have.
  • PSI aka Pounds per Square Inch - PSI is what we use when referring to water pressure. You will see PSI mentioned in just about every application of an irrigation system and timers/controllers are no different.

It may seem overwhelming but by answering a few basic questions, you will be able to narrow down your options very quickly.

What is your water source?

If you are working from a manifold valve system off your main water line, you will need to look at controllers. A controller needs to be wired to one or more electronic water valves that control each zone. These units come in either AC or DC and you will need to make sure that your valves and controller are compatible. For example, if you are using AC valves, you will need to make sure that your controller is also AC.

If you are planning on using a hose bib as your water source, then you will want to look at ‘hose-end’ timers.

What is the PSI at your water source?

All timers and valves require a minimum amount of PSI to operate correctly. Let’s start by reviewing ‘Hose-end Timers’. Most of these units require a minimum of 7.3 PSI to function properly; however, Claber offers the Select model 8423 which operates with a PSI as low as 2.9. This works great in low flow situations such as a gravity set-up.

PSI relates to controllers indirectly as controllers do not operate on pressure; however, the valves they control do and valves will need much higher pressure to function correctly than hose-end timers. Low-pressure valves need a minimum of 10 PSI while others need at least 20 PSI to operate well. So as you can see, knowing your PSI will go a long way in helping when choosing a timer/controller.

Do you like programming things?

Before the introduction of Bluetooth and WiFi, this used to be more of an issue. One of the benefits of Bluetooth and WiFi is that you can program from your phone, iPad, or computer through very intuitive programs. That being said, we do have one super easy-to-use timer; the Logica timer by Claber, which has 15 preset programs. You simply turn the dial to the watering schedule that best meets your needs and the timer does the rest. It is really easy to use and comes highly recommended by our customers.

WiFi or Bluetooth?  

Timers and controllers have evolved a lot over the past couple of years. Today, there are many options to choose from. With the introduction of WiFi and Bluetooth, the old units that were extremely difficult to program are a thing of the past. Now you can get full functionality from the more complex units with easy programming right from your smartphone, iPad, or computer. Due to the electrical needs of WiFi units, you will only find them in the controllers, but we have a few Bluetooth units in the hose-end models and one controller that is 100% waterproof that can be installed below ground in the valve box.

Bluetooth timers do have some range limitations and require a direct line of sight (so you must be outside within range), but they offer you easy programming and the ability to program from the comfort of your chair - no more stooping over a timer trying to read the small screen.

WiFi controllers offer a full range of features, including the fact that you can control your unit from anywhere you can get connected to the internet. In addition, many of these units connect directly to local weather stations and can self-adjust watering cycles based on the local weather. In addition, many municipalities offer generous rebates for installing these smart controllers.

Here is a list of some WiFi Smart Controllers:

Do you need to water two zones or more?

A lot of the hose-end timers on the market today are designed to water a single run of tubing from a single hose bibb. We do offer two zone, 3 zone, and 4 zone options as well. Other options for multiple zones include using a faucet Y splitter and add additional timers or, you may want to consider creating a manifold system and using a controller.  

Controllers can handle as few as one zone and in some cases, as many as 24 zones.

When choosing a timer and/or controller, you will want to consider not only your water source but the number of zones needed and the maximum number of start times you will need in any given day. It is always best to try and project a worst-case scenario during the hottest part of summer to help give you the most flexibility.

Do you want to use a rain sensor?

A rain sensor is always a great option. No one wants to water more than they have to.

We currently offer three timers that are compatible with the Claber rain sensor. The timers are:

Most ‘Controllers’ come as rain sensor compatible. We have most manufacturer manuals on our website. When interested in a controller, it is always advised to read the manufacturer’s manual for a full list of features.

Looking for a solar model?

We carry solar models in both controllers and hose-end timers.



Do Drip Depot timers come with warranties?

Yes, all of our timers come with manufacturer warranties. Below are a few that we carry.  

ManufacturerWarranty Length
DIG3 Year
Claber2 Year
Hunter2 Year: Except I-Core (5 Years)
IrritrolKwikDial 3 Year; RainDial R & Total Control 5 Year
RainBird3 Year
K-Rain2 Year
Toro AG5 Year